Germany’s A115 Semi-Automatic Rifle Arrived a Decade Too Early
Walther was ahead of the curve in the 1930s
The Walther A115 from the mid-1930s made use of advanced stamping techniques and extensive machining. The German weapon was ahead of its time. Walther ultimately abandoned it.
The A115 was gas-operated, had a rotating bolt and fed from a fixed. 10-round double-stack, single-feed magazine that the shooter loaded by way of stripper clips. The A115 chambered the standard German 7.92-by-57-millimeter round.
Designed as a military rifle, the A115 had a K98k-style rear tangent sight and bayonet bar beneath the barrel. Unlike later Walther semi-automatic rifle designs, the A115 had a gas port in the barrel — something the Wehrmacht eventually instructed designers to avoid.
The rifle’s receiver was carefully stamped — an innovation at the time — while the bolt and barrel boasted fine machining. German manufacturers would later make extensive use of sheet-metal stamping — Walther, Haenel and Mauser all used the technique for their assault-rifle prototypes.
Rock Island Auction photos
An annular gas piston assembly surrounded the barrel and featured a small gas chamber at the front end. Much like the later FN FAL, the A115 housed its recoil spring in its butt, along with a bar linking the sprint to the bolt. When the bolt and bolt carrier were forward, the weapon’s action remained closed, thus preventing the ingress of dirt. When the bolt was open, a pair of stripper-clip guides on the carrier allowed the fixed magazine to easily load.
It’s unclear why Walther abandoned the A115 project. It’s possible that the gas piston with its tight tolerances may have suffered carbon-fouling. Likewise, the thin stamped receiver was reportedly prone to loosening, which caused accuracy problems.
With more development and experimentation, the design could have improved. Still, it seems Walther applied its experience with the A115 to future projects. Germany expressed renewed interest in semi-automatic rifles in the early 1940s. Walther and Mauser both ended up developing 7.92-by-57-millimeter semi-automatic rifles from 1942 onward.
In April 1945, U.S. forces captured Walther’s plant at Zella-Mehlis and sent an example of the A115 to Aberdeen Proving Ground for testing and evaluation. Walther apparently made just five A115 prototype and today only two survive. The example depicted above is in private hands. Another, possibly earlier prototype, depicted at top, is in the collection of the Armed Forces Research Collection at Koblenz in Germany.